A total of five Odyssey Charter School board members have now resigned in the fallout of racist jokes made in discussions about traffic and parking issues with neighboring charter school Academia Antonia Alonso.
Board member Michael Kirifides is the latest board member to step down.
"As one of the active participants in the racist commentaries of Odyssey's January board meeting, his resignation is indeed appropriate and one more step in the right direction," said Academia Antonia Alonso board president Maria Alonso.
Kirifides' resignation follows that of John Nicholson and Tami Soltow, which came this week. Statements for Kirifides and Nicholson were not available. Though Soltow was not present at the January meeting where board members were heard joking and laughing, "build a wall" between it and Academia Antonia Alonso, which has a largely Hispanic student population, she, too, stepped down.
"Although it has been my pleasure to represent the incredible Odyssey staff, I resign solely because I can no longer be a part of a board in which certain members make insensitive comments and fail to truly acknowledge their responsibility and duty to our community, especially our approximately 2,000 students.
"I will continue to strongly advocate for the staff and faculty as well as the students in my separate roles as a teacher and parent."Lastly, it is imperative that the Board takes the second formal review seriously, making every decision solely in the best interests of Odyssey Charter School and those involved in these comments resign their positions."
Board president Josiah Wolcott stepped down one day after hundreds, including Odyssey Charter School community members, rallied against racism at Academa Antonia Alonso.
"As president of the board, although I did not speak or respond to the words, I take responsibility that insensitive and hurtful words were used," he said in a prepared statement. "There is no excuse ever, for allowing such words to be spoken. As board president, I was not vigilant in adequately addressing issues of diversity on the board."
The first board member to resign was Michael Klezaras.
Academia Antonia Alonso Charter School President Maria Alonso called Klezaras a "scapegoat." She called Wolcott's resignation a good first step, but demanded the resignation of all board members associated with the "build a wall" comment and laughter that followed.
Prior to these latest resignations, Alonso also threatened to move the school. Both schools share property at Barley Mill Plaza.
"If in fact, this is as good as Odyssey leadership gets, at La Academia we are clear that we cannot be on a campus where racism and hate are condoned and tolerated," she said.
After the latest resignations, Alonso issued a statement, calling for one further resignation and said her community remains on edge.
"La Academia community, however, remains feeling unsafe in the presence of one last campus administrative leader whose personal cackle led the ensuing cacophony of laughter following the racist remarks made that evening," she said. "Given his position, instead of being instrumental in trying to resolve the issue and keeping our campus safe, he was a catalyst for the events that unfolded over the past several weeks. The racist commentaries made that evening were no laughing matter and leading a group into laughter around these heinous words was neither the act nor example of a leader. Rather, it is a clear indication of why this man must step forward from the shadows into the light and step down from this position of leadership.
La Academia will not be able to continue business as usual as long as he is a part of the Odyssey campus. Our communities deserve someone in this position that serves with moral and ethical intentions. One that aims to serve everyone on this campus, rather than choosing sides. While this individual to date has not been able to divide these two amazing communities, he does not deserve to be in this position one more day. This can never happen again. We remain hopeful today in our community that what is right, shall be done in relation to this administrative 'leader' who still remains active on this campus."
Additionally, in another conversation in December, board members were heard on recording discussing adding a black woman to the board for fear that she would be considered a "token." She ultimately was not placed on the board.
At a meeting Wednesday, Odyssey named four new board members to replace those who've resigned. They are parents Erin Allard, Sandra Johnson, and Rodrigo Torres, as well teacher Eva Jannelli. The board still has three vacancies.
Odyssey was placed on formal review--for a second time in less than a year--by the state department of Education in early February following the comments that state Education Secretary Dr. Susan Bunting called "discriminatory."